Shipbreakers

Chittagong, Bangladesh

Chittagong is one of the biggest ship breaking yards in the world. It is graveyard where ships are taken from all around the world for their last voyage, to be taken apart.

Know for unsafe work practices and environmental pollution due to the demolition and ship breaking processes, Chittagong presents one of the biggest industry and job opportunities for many Bangladeshis.

Some 30, 000 workers are engaged in this scrapping in Bangladesh's Sitakunda coast, which houses the world's second largest ship-breaking industry after China. At least 250,000 people in the country live off the industry directly and indirectly, according to experts.

The industry is a critical contributor to the low-income country's economy, and Bangladesh relies on ship breaking for 80% of its steel needs. But along with the recyclable materials comes a lot of toxic junk and hazardous material such as asbestos.

Often unaware of the risks they face on a daily basis by carrying heavy loads, directly touching materials that are known to cause cancer (asbestos), the workers rarely take these risks into consideration. "I don't see any danger" said a 17 year old worker.

Living in a 3rd world country, taking care of a family, the priorities of workers in the yards of Chittagong have a different order. To be without a job, letting their families go hungry, represents a bigger treat to these men then working in an environment that can eventually lead to health issues or early death.

Copyright Jana Asenbrennerova 2010 Collaboration on access and text with Syed Zain Al-Mahmood www.asenbrennerova.com